For a few years now the company has been calling at Catalina Island as a short stop while on a re-positioning cruise to and from Alaska. If there is no reason to call at Los Angeles, then this is a very nice call to make. The only concern here is the weather as the anchorage and the small ferry port is very exposed to swell and wind. But today we were lucky it was a bit wobbly during the tender ride but it was a pleasant day for all. From officially 14.00 hrs. in the afternoon to 23.00 hrs. in the evening. Of course the Captain tried to arrive earlier to give the guests as much time ashore as possible and thus we were able to get all the guests ashore with our tenders within 90 minutes time. Not bad when having 2000 guests on board and not all of them as agile as could be.
I had never been to this place so I hopped on the tender to have a quick look and to see at the same time how the tender drivers were performing. They did very well and that means I do not have to embark on a whole string of refresher courses. Avalon has a ferry connection with the main land and the tender dock is part of that ferry setup. As a result the guests have a very professional landing to use for arriving and leaving with the tender.
Because the place is somewhat off the beaten track, the ship is not being cleared locally but this is done in Los Angeles. The Port Paper Officer, the person who does all the paperwork to comply with port requirements, had to fly with a helicopter across to make sure she got the stamps and approval before the CBP office closed and then came back with the local ferry. Off the ship with the first tender and back again by 19.00 hrs. to ensure that we could sail as well. The most important thing that she had to obtain was “The Clearance”. This is a sort of certificate (and in most countries it looks like it; not unlike a share certificate) with a stamp which has to be presented in the next port. So tomorrow in San Diego, the CBP will ask for The Clearance, to ensure that we sailed from the last port legally and did not conduct any naughty business. I experienced it a few times in my career that for reasons unclear this piece of paper was not delivered to the ship and then we had fun and games in the next port, relying on faxed copies and trying to placate upset Immigration Officers.
The Vista Class and the next version of it the Signature Class to which the Nieuw Amsterdam belongs, have a very good tender system. There are lifts which come out level with the tender platform so also Guests with Special Needs can quite easily get on and off the ship. Today with a low swell running, the ship was at anchor but the Navigators used one Azipod to keep a good lee side against the westerly swell so there was hardly any movement when getting on and off. On the other side the tender dock was a floating pontoon and thus always on level with the tender opening. Then a long ramp to get to the road not a bad setup at all. The port of Avalon is located right under a large out cropping of a mountain range which dominates the island. So once you are off the tender things get a bit steep unless you stay on the road around the marina.
We have sailors on the platform and the dock to tie up the tenders and we have Bar Lounge and Deck staff to assist the guests where needed. Then we have security all over the place to ensure that only those who belong get back on board and to ensure that everything goes orderly.
For the Captain and his officers it is not the greatest stop to make, mainly because of the short period between leaving Avalon and arriving in San Diego. It calls for a short night. Anchor up by 23.00 hrs., the Pilot again by 05.00 hrs. For San Diego we have to arrive early; to be on time to disembark about 700 guests who are only with us for the Coastal voyage. So we have luggage to deal with and to do the final storing for our Trans Canal voyage to Fort Lauderdale where we are scheduled to arrive on October 21st. luckily the weather looks great, sunny and not too warm.